The Empire's season podcast series will cover college basketball in the City 6. We will be releasing a podcast to accompany a written report covering our outlook for the teams' seasons. Please note that the podcasts and the written season previews may differ in writers and opinion.
William Derry and Benjamin Simon
Phil Martell enters his 23rd season with the Hawks after an injury-riddled 2016-17 campaign. The first to go down was Pierfrancesco “Checco” Oliva, who was sidelined with a chronic knee condition, which required surgery in June of 2016. Oliva reaggravated the injury prior to the season and subsequently missed the entire year. To make matters worse, James Demery suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in Saint Joseph’s season-opening win against Toledo that caused him to miss 10 games. Just when the Hawks thought they were back to full-strength with Demery returning against George Washington two days before New Year’s, Shavar Newkirk torn the ACL in his left knee. As a result, Newkirk needed season-ending surgery.
A little over two months later, Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble suffered a fracture in his left foot against UMass on February 11th and would miss the last 7 games of the season. With Newkirk inactive, Kimble was Saint Joseph’s leading scorer up until that point, averaging 15.5 points. The Hawks needed someone new to step up again. Demery and freshman Charlie Brown answered the call. Demery led SJU in scoring (14.5 ppg) after Newkirk and Kimble went down, while Brown scored in double-figures in all but 6 contests.
Oliva, Demery, and Kimble are all back fully healthy this year and are set to play major minutes for coach Martelli. Brown, on the other hand, who appeared in every game last season, suffered a wrist injury during practice three weeks before the Hawks season-opener at Toledo. Brown’s wrist required surgery on October 24th but he began rehab immediately. Saint Joseph’s announced on November 2nd that Newkirk was cleared for limited practice and is still progressing towards a full recovery.
Brown and Newkirk hope to play in Saint Joseph’s season-opener but that is yet to be seen. In the meantime, the Hawks will look rebound this season and compete for another Atlantic-10 championship.
Who’s Gone? Brendan Casper (F, Graduation), Javon Baumann (F, Graduation)
Brendan Casper and Javon Baumann both graduated last spring after spending four seasons playing for the Hawks. Casper joined Saint Joseph’s as a walk-on and ultimately earned a scholarship during his junior year. The former team captain was a rotation player throughout his collegiate career and received numerous team awards (Robert O’Neill Memorial Award for Most Improved Player, Patrick D. O’Pake Unsung Hero Award, and SJU’s Scholar-Athlete Award). Baumann was also a team captain for the Hawks last season and provided them with a defensive presence in limited playing time. Casper and Baumann will both be missed for their leadership and selflessness.
Who’s New? Anthony Longpre (F, Fr.), Taylor Funk (F, Fr.), Mike Muggeo (G, Jr.)
Anthony Longpre moved to the United States from Canada in 2014 and went to Glenelg Country High School in Maryland. The Quebec native is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward who has the size to play the ‘5’ but can comfortably play the ‘4’ as well. He was a successful high school basketball player, exceeding 1,000 career points and was named a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association All-Star three times. Longpre also won a Gold Medal at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Cairo playing for Canada’s Under-19 National Team. Longpre has accomplished a lot before even suiting up for the Hawks and should see significant playing time this season.
Taylor Funk is a talented forward from Lancaster, PA who can score from all three levels on the basketball court. At 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, Funk has the ability to play the ‘3’ or ‘4’ and, although unlikely, could even switch on to an opponent's '5' if the Hawks want to go small ball. What separates Funk from most incoming freshman forwards around the country is his touch from mid-range and behind the 3-point line. Funk scored a Manheim Central record 1,977 points and drilled 229 career 3-pointers during his high school career. While Funk may not start for the Hawks this season, he will likely see a considerable amount of playing time due to his adept shooting and versatility.
Mike Muggeo joined Saint Joseph’s as a practice player this year.
Projected Starting Lineup (if everyone is healthy to start the year):
G, Sr.: Shavar Newkirk (Proj. Stats: 20 PPG, 5 RPG, 4 APG, 2 SPG, 48 FG%)
Shavar Newkirk returns for his senior season after breaking on to the scene last year. The junior was electrifying, averaging 20 points per game, along with shooting 46% from the field and 39% from 3, before going down with an ACL tear. As of right now, it is unclear whether or not Newkirk will begin the season injured or healthy. Newkirk is back practicing and according to a Philly.com article, he still has a chance to start the beginning of the season in the lineup. If he does, he will have the tools around him to succeed once again. If the Hawks decide to go small, Newkirk will be able to run out in transition. But if they go big, Newkirk will be able to use his high basketball IQ to operate in the pick-and-roll. Either will be a big success for the guard, especially if he is surrounded by shooters like Charlie Brown, Anthony Longpre, and Taylor Funk.
Saint Joseph's guard Shavar Newkirk dribbles down the Hagan Arena floor.
(Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)
G, Jr.: Lamarr Kimble (Proj. Stats: 14 PPG, 5 RPG, 4 APG, 40 FG%)
Lamarr Kimble returns after a promising yet challenging sophomore season. The year saw him struggle to consistently score efficiently as he shot only 36.2% from the field, 32% from 3, 69.6% from the free throw line, and averaged a team high 3.3 turnovers per game. Those stats don’t tell the whole story however, as Kimble was tasked with handling a bigger load than previously anticipated after Newkirk’s injury. Kimble didn’t have a ton of scoring help outside of Demery and Brown during the stretch. Kimble also did his fair share of scoring the basketball and did everything he could in the situation that he was put in. He showed his ability to man the offense and score in tough situations. Year two of sharing a backcourt with Shavar Newkirk can only mean (albeit 12 games) that the two grow more comfortable together.
F, So.: Charlie Brown (Proj. Stats: 14 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, 40 FG%, 40 3P%)
Charlie Brown’s spot in the lineup is really contingent on his health. Assuming that he is ready to go by the Hawks’ first game, Brown will certainly start after a promising freshman season. Brown averaged 12.8 points per game on 37.5% shooting from the field, 38.4% shooting from 3, and 81.9% from the line. The Philadelphia native is a go-to 3-point shooter. He is also an ideal size for the ‘3’ at 6-foot-7. Brown will be extremely valuable for the Hawks as someone who can spread the floor for Newkirk, Kimble, and Demery to attack the basket.
F, Sr.: James Demery (Proj. Stats:10 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 APG, 39 FG%)
Demery is a superior defender and an electrifying athlete who can attack the basket. What has held the rising senior back has been his jump shot. Demery stepped into a larger role last season after Newkirk and Kimble went down, which led him to taking 12 shots a game and averaging 31 minutes of play. He tallied 14.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds during that time period, while shooting 42% from the field. Had he shot better from 3 (25%) and the free throw line (59%) that scoring average could have easily been in the 20s. Demery is a must in Martelli’s starting five because of his defense. If his jump shot finally comes together, that could spell another tournament berth for the Hawks. Although Demery could also very well come off the bench in favor a bigger lineup featuring Anthony Longpre, Demery’s role as a defensive stopper fits perfectly into the St. Joe’s starting lineup. The team could also play faster with Demery at the ‘4’.
F, R-So.: Pierfrancesco “Checco” Oliva (Proj. Stats: 9 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 APG, 40 FG%)
The native of Italy started 30 of the team’s 33 games as a freshman. He was primed for a bigger role in his second year on City Line Avenue, but Oliva was deemed out for the entire season after reaggravating his knee over the summer. Despite not scoring much, Oliva averaged 16.5 minutes per game on a team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It is not common for coach Martelli to start freshmen, but Oliva’s ability to shoot, pass, and put the ball on the floor provided a unique skillset. Despite being more of a ‘4’, Oliva could start the year at the ‘5’ if everyone is healthy. This will provide the most talented lineup for Martelli’s Hawks. They’re going to want to run, score, and attack the basket. Oliva will fit in perfectly as a well-rounded basketball player who can run the floor, handle the ball, and execute the pick-and-roll.
Reserves: Nick Robinson (G, So.), Taylor Funk (F, Fr.), Anthony Longpre (F. Fr.), Chris Clover (F, Jr.), Markell Lodge (F, Jr.), Jai Williams (F, Sr.), Lorenzo Edwards (F, So)
Thrust into primary ball handling duties after several key injuries, Nick Robinson made the most of his opportunity during his freshman season. Robinson, who played in all 31 games last year, showed that he could adapt to any situation by dishing out 60 assists while splitting time between point and shooting guard. Although Robinson is better suited to play the '2', he may see time at both guard positions since SJU does not have a true backup point guard.
With Demery and Oliva fit a perfect small ball lineup at the ‘4’ and ‘5’, Taylor Funk’s ability to space the floor as a 3-point threat will be an invaluable asset for SJU off the bench. Funk should be able to combine with both Newkirk and Kimble on pick-and-pops, which would keep their opponents honest on defense. Funk could also slide in at the three and create matchup nightmares for opposing coaches.
At 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, Anthony Longpre could replace Oliva or even Demery when they are subbed out of the game but with Longpre’s versatility and scoring ability, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see both big men on the floor at the same time, maybe even starting together. Like Oliva, Longpre can step out and knock down a mid-range or 3-point jump shot as well as score from the post. When Longpre does enter the game, look for him to connect with SJU’s backcourt on pick-and-rolls to the basket. That will be a dangerous weapon for the Hawks with their two best players being smart point guards who can effectively run the pick-and-roll. Don't suprirsed to see Longpre as a part of the starting lineup on opening day as well, as coach Martelli could go with Demery as a spark plug off the bench.
Chris Clover rebounded last year after a disappointing freshman season. Clover flourished when his number was called upon, averaging 12.6 PPG and shooting 35% from the field in the last 11 games of the season. After injuries sidelined SJU’s starting backcourt duo, Clover saw his minutes increase and took advantage of the opportunity. Some would say that Clover benefitted mightily from the injuries and because of them he was left to take more shots than usual which helps to explain his increase in offensive prediction. Nevertheless, SJU needs Clover to be a productive reserve and he will be given the chance to make that happen.
After starting every game last season, Markell Lodge returns for his junior year. The unworldly athletic big man will look to build off a solid sophomore campaign, where he successfully completed his role on a game-by-game basis. Lodge protected the rim for the Hawks, blocking a team-high 29 shots and was the only team member to start all 31 games. When coach Martelli decides to rotate his lineup due to an opponent's frontcourt dominance, look for Lodge to be inserted into the starting five and find more playing time.
Jai Williams returned for his final season with the Hawks in peak shape, weighing in at 235 pounds. Though Williams did not fill up the stat sheet during the 2016-17 campaign, he did receive the Robert O’Neill Memorial Award for Most Improved Player. The Philadelphia native could factor into SJU’s rotation if the Hawks face a dominant frontcourt player and need someone to bang in the post.
Lorenzo Edwards missed most of last season due to shoulder surgery and will likely see limited action due to incoming freshman forwards Funk and Longpre.
Ultimately, coach Martelli will have many lineups with varying identities to play with. It will be interesting to see how he mixes and matches them during the course of the games and the season.
vs. Washington State (Nov. 23rd, 2017)
The Hawks take on the Pac-12’s Washington State in the Wooden Legacy tournament. If St. Joe’s can get by the Cougars they will not only have won against a Power 5 team, but they will have also had the opportunity at playing Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, or Georgia later in the tournament. Beating Washington State would be a good confidence booster and would provide them the opportunity to add to their resume with strong wins.
at Temple (Dec. 9, 2017)
St. Joe’s takes on local Philadelphia team, the Temple Owls, in a non-conference, Big 5 showdown. The past few meetings have been very close, almost always coming down to the wire. This year should prove no different as both teams are evenly matched and primed for a competitive game. A win against a nationally recognized Temple team would provide the Hawks with confidence and swagger before beginning conference play soon after.
at Rhode Island (Feb. 27, 2018)
In their second to last game of the regular season, the Hawks face off with A-10 preseason favorite Rhode Island. The Rams return a year after upsetting 6th seeded Creighton in the Round of 64 and losing to 3rd seeded Oregon in the final minute of regulation during the Round of 32. Rhode Island returns leading scorer E.C. Matthews and third leading scorer Jared Terrell. They also bring in Philadelphia native Daron “Fatts” Russell, who was the Philadelphia Public League Basketball Player of the Year. Last year, the Rams beat down on St. Joe’s twice. They will look to get revenge late in the saeon with a potential resume building win.
A lot for St. Joe’s will rely on their ability to stay healthy. If the team can avoid serious injuries and get Shavar Newkirk and Charlie Brown back as soon as possible, they are as talented as any team in the A-10. Their guards are proven scorers, while coach Martelli’s complements them with a well rounded, versatile frontcourt. The keys will be the team’s overall ability to shoot from deep and the freshmen’s ability to play substantial minutes. Having perimeter shooters will provide lanes for their guards to operate, while the freshmen could add much needed roles and skillsets for coach Martelli’s offense. Their contributions would also give depth to a possibly suspect bench.
“He’s (Anthony Longpre) kind of the quintessential high school pick-and-pop — probably the best one I’ve seen...It’s a cliché now, but he’s a European-style basketball player. I think they just like his overall skill set. He’s very agile for a big guy. Great hands, great vision. He can shoot the heck out of the ball — you can just see it when it leaves his hand. He’s deceptively athletic. He can jump well and has a strong body. And he also really handles the basketball well. The strongest part of his game is his passing; he’s very unselfish. Great court vision, great technique in passing the ball. I’ve seen a ton of growth in him over these years. ‘- Glenelg Country School coach Kevin Quinlan on his standout high school player, Anthony Longpre, to The Baltimore Sun
“Hampered by a slew of injuries last year, Saint Joseph’s returns an experienced core of players and is picked third in this year’s poll. Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble, both of whom suffered season-ending injuries last season, return for the Hawks, as does last year’s All-Rookie selection Charlie Brown, Jr. The three are all preseason all-conference selections, leading to the Hawks earning 300 points in the poll.” -Atlantic10.com preseason rankings press release
“So Taylor (Funk) went to work last summer by meeting up with a nearby personal weight trainer that helped Taylor add to his vertical and pack on 20 pounds of muscle to his frame, which improved his above-the-rim game and abilities on the low block. And throughout this 2016-17 campaign, the 205-pound Taylor, slowly but surely, developed a post game, all the while playing through the pain of a sore left wrist of his non-shooting hand that’s nagged at him all season.” -LancasterOnline on Taylor Funk, who is now listed at 225 pounds.
“With so many missing parts, the Hawks offense last season was hard to watch and even harder for Phil Martelli to coach. Every possession was a struggle and St. Joe’s finished 215th in offensive efficiency. With everybody back, kenpom projects SJU to have the 39th most efficient offense, an incredible leap.” -Philly.com’s Dick Jerardi
“Boasting an ordinary name doesn’t mean one has an ordinary game and (Charlie) Brown is tangible proof of that very sentiment. The versatile forward averaged 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds last season as a freshman and much of his expected supporting cast — Shavar Newkirk, Lamarr Kimble, and Pierfrancesco Oliva — went down with season-ending injuries. Expect Brown to make a ‘DeAndre Bembry’ caliber jump as a sophomore and average between 16 and 18 points each time he takes the floor as the Hawks re-establish themselves as one of the top teams in the Atlantic 10.” -Jon Rothstein’s “10 under-the-radar players who could become stars in 2017-18” for FanRag Sports
-LaMarr "Fresh" Kimble ruled out for the season with injury to his left foot.